Summer nights and starry lights: Camping under the stars
Aug 6 2012 Posted by Lewis Shields
Escape the city lights and head to the dark side - several National Parks offer superb stellar vistas which offer spectacular viewing during warmer summer nights.
And while it's true that the remotest parts of Scotland or Wales have the lowest light pollution, viewers can get closer to a true glimpse of celestial activity without having to go to quite such geographical extremes. Pitchup.com recommends the top places for nights under the stars this summer:
1. Stonehenge, Wiltshire
Situated on the edge of Salisbury Plain, the prehistoric ceremonial landscape of Stonehenge is ideal for star gazing. The monuments here are directly connected to the skies above, with stones aligned to moonrises and moonsets, in addition to the Midsummer and Midwinter solstices. Keep an ear out for the stone curlew's haunting bird call, particularly in late summer and into autumn.
Stay a stone’s throw away at Stonehenge Caravan Park - a fantastic, family-run site and the nearest to the stones themselves. Campers benefit from not only a fantastic location but high-quality facilities, including new piping-hot Mira power showers. Pitches are priced from £15 per night.
2. Kielder Forest, Northumberland
Kielder is England's largest forest, and home to the biggest man-made lake in northern Europe. Visitors should venture to the Kielder Observatory in Kielder Forest Park to the south-west of Northumberland National Park, as it’s the perfect time of year to see the Northern Lights.
Stay at Border Forest Caravan Park – as the name suggests – right on the forest’s border, with direct access from the bridge over the 'burn' onto the Kielder Forest and Pennine Way, so you are an easy amble back to base camp after a spot of star-gazing.
3. Penbryn Beach, Cardigan, West Wales
Almost a mile in length, the spacious golden sands of Penbryn Beach are the perfect location for dark-sky star gazing and are reached through the woods of a fern-clad valley. Dusk is a great time to see seals and barn owls in the area, and they’re lucky visitors may even spot some of the resident Bottlenose dolphins.
Pitch up at the pretty site of Cardigan Caravan and Camping Site and guests will find themselves only a hundred metres away from the working farmyard. After nights of starry skies you will be greeted by the resident ducks, sheep, hens, Welsh cobs and Arab horses and the rather more unusual white peacocks. Pitches are priced from £15 per night.
4. Exmoor National Park, Devon
Perhaps saving the best until last – just last year, Exmoor National Park was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, the very first place in Europe to achieve this official status. According to the International Dark Sky Association, Exmoor is now one of the best places in Europe – and the best place in England – in which to stargaze.
Located in a sheltered, peaceful valley within the Blackdown Hills, the Kingsmead Centre is within an easy driving distance of Exmoor National Park. Bring a torch, wrap up on chillier evenings and head up to the highest point on Exmoor, Dunkery Beacon, to get closer to the night sky. Pitches are priced from £7.50 per night.
Winner of the Travel Journalists’ Award for Best UK Travel Website of the Year at the British Travel Press Awards 2011 and Best Travel Information Site at the 2010 Travolution awards, Pitchup.com is the most comprehensive website in the camping and caravanning sector. Launched in July 2009, the site features 5,000 campsites and holiday parks in the UK and Ireland, including many in hard-to-find locations. The website enables users to search and book using more than 80 search criteria to fine-tune their holiday requirements, and features mapping technology to make getting there simple too. The site also lists accommodation near nine National Parks, hundreds of beaches, 17 World Heritage Sites and the main UK festivals and can view nearby Good Pub Guide pubs, National Trust properties and National Cycle Network routes. Website owners can also add custom Pitchup.com listings to their site.
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